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Soprano vs Alto embouchure?

Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
Hi everyone!
Is there a big difference between embouchure for Alto and Soprano? I'm considering getting a budget soprano (~£300?) to leave at work as I've been working late (and will be working late till end May) so I can practice during my dinner break.

Would the practice on a soprano help or harm with the embouchure/technique for alto? At the time of this writing, I really like the range of the alto, and if I were to get another sax it will probably be a soprano.

Thanks!

Alvin
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi Alvin!

Not a problem at all as long as you realise that they are different instruments and that you will need to learn them as such. I play both most days, but am now used to what I am doing so settle in to a slightly different way of blowing. It would be interesting to know what Paul Inglis thinks, as he recently started learning soprano, alto & tenor. I would say at the very least that I generally have a slightly tighter embouchure for soprano - smaller mouthpiece particularly - produce a more powerful airstream and essentially play different types of music on each one.

I would personally recommend looking at John Packer soprano saxes - both straight and curved (curved are prettier, more sax like, and more portable - smaller case) and you could get one around £300 - including different finishes (new and/or ex-demo). Lovely instrument - but useful to know what you want to play on it (also its in Bb, not Eb as Alto so needs different/transcribed music. I would also say that the soprano is more difficult/less forgiving in terms of intonation.

Hope this is helpful
Tom
 
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Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
Hi Tom,
thanks! May I know where you found the John Packer sops about £300? The ones on their site and ebay seem to be about the £400 mark :-/ I am planning, if I do decide to get one, to allocate perhaps £300 for the sax, and a bit more on a good student mouthpiece (Yamaha? I am wondering if Runyon does Sop mpcs :p)

Alvin
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
Figuring out how to play soprano well will help your alto playing. The thing about soprano is that regardless of the horn, the pitch is much more flexible than on alto. You have to get good at voicing it correctly to play even the best soprano in tune. So learning to play well on soprano will help your sound on alto, tenor, bari, everything.
 

Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
Hi Morgan!
That sounds like a very useful sax to pick up. Will definitely consider it!!!

@Tom, seems like there isn't a Runyon 22 for sop, else I'd definitely be up to try that!

Alvin
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi Alvin!

1. A Rico Graftonite mouthpiece is very good on a soprano - I used to play a B7. A B5 would be a good size for you (at 0.060" - best price at www.rapidreeds.com ). Otherwise my tech Richard Hamerhas a Morgan Vintage 6 mouthpiece at £50 - I've tried it and its superb. He is at www.woodwindsalesandrepairs.com . Runyon Customs ( www.saxplus.com ) are good as are Bari HR and Yanagisawa HR (they have a Yani HR 6 @ £60 at www.howarth.uk.com - half price)
2. John Packer Curved saxes are all at £334 apart from their gold lacq one - just scroll down on the section called "Please select" and they are all at that price. Also they have a Curved soprano in gold lacquer in their Ex-Demo section, where they have straight soprano
saxes at £316 or below "awaiting delivery". As far as I can see all the new straight soprano saxes are just below £400 as you report. I'd give them a ring on 01823 - 282386 - they are very helpful.

Kind regards
Tom
 
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Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
Messages
13,954
It will seem odd at first, but you should very quickly get used to it.

One thing to watch out for is that it's very tempting to hold a soprano close to your body, which can force the mouthpiece to be more downward pointing from your mouth. I advise to hold the soprano out, so the angle of mouthpiece is the same as your alto.
 

Pyrografix

Senile Member
Messages
1,026
Hi Alvin,
I was lucky enough to pick up a 'used' JP curved sop from one of the other forum members along with a Vandoren V16 S7 mouthpiece - I can highly recommend it - very playable, and sooooo cute! I had previously tried a straight Elkhart sop, but found it quite difficult to get on with (it was in need of some maintenance at the time!). I can also vouch for the staff John Packer being very helpful!
Cheers,
Amanda
 

Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
Hi Amanda, cheers for the info!
I have been looking at the JP043, wish Taunton was closer so I could check out the differences between the straight/curved in person.

Thanks!
Alvin
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,281
Hi Amanda, cheers for the info!
I have been looking at the JP043, wish Taunton was closer so I could check out the differences between the straight/curved in person.

Thanks!
Alvin
Alvin i know you have been thinking about the JP043 from packers but i envy you living near to a number of woodwind shops such as sax.co.uk and howarths which are just a short tube stop from you,here in the midlands we are starved of good woodwind shops since MIR closed down.

Brian
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi Targa!

Speaking personally I generally focus on contemporary music on soprano sax, especially Jan Garbarek/Portico Quartet/North European Jazz, and lots of improvisation. On Tenor I am most likely to be playing stuff from the 50's & 60's - Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane,Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter etc. On Alto I play a wider range of Jazz tunes and others from 50's to the present day, which are specifically written for, or sound better on Alto IMO.

Specifically in relation to the soprano sax topic I like having a specific focus to work on, and particularly enjoy improvising with a North European theme, over rock beats and similar rhythms.

Kind regards
Tom
 
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baritonesax

Member
Messages
256
My main observation about soprano - as far as starting playing it is concerned- is that you will probably find it is surprisingly tiring on the embouchure. I remember that after 20 mins or so I used to have to take a break - or just stop for the day. Secondly, playing straight soprano is tiring on your right thumb and forearm (well, it was for me) until you get used to it.

All that said, playing sop is great for all other saxophones - you need to take the sop's intonation firmly in hand because it is quite wayard compared to the others. If you can play a sop accurately in tune, then chances are the bigger saxes won't present any problems. I've also found that my sop playing goes off the boil much faster thant the others if I don't stay current with it.

John Packer sops are great for the money. I own a straight 043, and recently sold my curvy to pyrografix. It compares very favourably to my Yanagisawa straight - it's bigger-toned, though not as nicely made, nor as "sweet" sounding. But for £337 or whatever...don't hesitate.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Agree about holding a straight soprano - I played a Rampone & Cazzani R1 straight when I first started sax and I did find it a little tiring throughout. I'm very happy with my BW Curvie in that area, and love the sound. My technique and embouchure has changed since the early days so I could offer no conclusions as to sound difference apart from that the curved sond slighly warmer.

Kind regards
Tom
 
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Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
baritonesax & Tom,
thank you both for the insight. I just got an email from John Packer, they don't have any of the ex-demo models in stock, so it looks like I may be popping into the Yard Sale area soon, or perhaps buying a new one from them (or somewhere).

Re: Holding a soprano, from vids it seems that the straight sop is held out mostly horizontal, but the curved sop is quite curious - the crook is not at a right angle like the altos - does this mean that the bell is actually pointed upwards in order to get the mpc straight into one's mouth?

Also, is the straight sop more tiring to play with with regards to the arms?

Alvin
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
Subscriber
Messages
8,890
Hi Targa!

Speaking personally I generally focus on contemporary music on soprano sax, especially Jan Garbarek/Portico Quartet/North European Jazz, and lots of improvisation. On Tenor I am most likely to be playing stuff from the 50's & 60's - Niles Davis, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane,Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter etc. On Alto I play a wider range of Jazz tunes and others from 50's to the present day, which are specifically written for, or sound better on Alto IMO.

Specifically in relation to the soprano sax topic I like having a specific focus to work on, and particularly enjoy improvising with a North European theme, over rock beats and similar rhythms.

Kind regards
Tom
Thanks Tom very interesting.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Re: Holding a soprano, from vids it seems that the straight sop is held out mostly horizontal, but the curved sop is quite curious - the crook is not at a right angle like the altos - does this mean that the bell is actually pointed upwards in order to get the mpc straight into one's mouth?

Also, is the straight sop more tiring to play with with regards to the arms?

Alvin
I'm no expert, only played a sop once (thanks John). But I found the angle of the mouthpiece in the mouth gets more critical as I move from tenor to alto to sop to sopranino. And the straight instrument are held well out in front - or you start bending your neck and looking down. Holding your arms forward like that takes some practice, but you can brace against the side of your chest.

If I was going to get a sop, a curvie would be my choice. But I prefer the bigger, deeper sounds of the tenor/bari...
 

Pyrografix

Senile Member
Messages
1,026
I have been looking at the JP043, wish Taunton was closer so I could check out the differences between the straight/curved in person.
You could try a local the different versions at a more local sax shop, then buy from JP! Okay, I know it would be different makes but it may well give you a feel for what suits you best.

Happy hunting!
 
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